Archive for July, 2010

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

The Treehouse Diaries, Vol. 1

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When we moved into our new house last year, I knew I wanted to build the kids a treehouse. I never had a treehouse myself, but always thought it would be awesome if I did.  So I began thinking about where the best place would be for such an edifice. We have lots of trees, so we had lots of options. Daniel offered his input as well.

As we were contemplating the location, I also began to do some research about actually building a treehouse. For the record, I am a complete construction novice. I can nail and screw things together, and can usually manage to mess that up. But that’s about it. I have virtually no experience building anything, so I knew that I’d have to educate myself if I were going to be successful in this endeavor. I borrowed one book, “How to Build Treehouses, Huts and Forts,” from my friend Ray Van Neste and his boys, and bought another book, “Tree Houses You Can Actually Build.” Both books were helpful. I also did some research online.

We finally decided on a suitable location. We have a large, deep ravine running along behind our house, and we found a couple of oak trees near its edge that seemed to be a perfect place for the treehouse. I decided to use a two-tree design I found, which would require setting two posts as well.

On Saturday, Daniel and I made a trip to Lowe’s to get some lumber for the frame. We bought two 2x8x12 pieces, two 2x8x8 pieces, and two 4x4x12 posts. On Sunday afternoon, the construction project began.

My goal for the day was simply to get the 2x8x12 connecting the two trees into place.  I had decided that I wanted the treehouse to be tall enough that I could walk underneath it without banging my head. Since I’m 6’2, that would mean a height for the platform of about six and a half feet. I quickly discovered one problem in my work with the 2x8x12 — the dang board was heavy, and I wasn’t sure how I was going to hold it in place at both ends while screwing it to the tree.

Fortunately for me, my observant wife noticed a small branch protruding from one of the two trees. The fact that it was located at the exact height I wanted was one of the Lord’s blessings to me that day. I was able to rest one end of the board on the branch, and set the other end of the board on a ladder next to the tree. That branch made my life a lot easier:

After getting one end of the board secured to the tree, I made sure it was level before securing it to the other tree.  Daniel played on the edge of the ravine while I worked, at least most of the time. He was able to help me a little by handing me tools from time to time, and I let him hammer on the lag screw a bit as I was getting it started into the board before hoisting it to the tree.

Katie and Gus will most likely be omnipresent throughout the process. Katie (on the left, below) spent time playing with Daniel in the ravine. Gus, however, plopped down and kept me company the whole time. Gus is 10 years old now and starting to show signs of his age. I expect his presence during this whole process will be one of his lasting legacies that he’ll leave us.

The job ended with getting the board tightly secured to both trees. The finished product for this stage looked like this:

I hope to do more work on the frame later sometime this weekend, and I’ll try to post regular updates as I complete various phases of the process. Maybe it will inspire someone else. I’m sure I’ll make many mistakes along the way, and I’m sure those of you who know how to build things will get a few chuckles at my expense. That’s OK. When you try to explain the definition of a gerund or a misplaced modifier, we’ll see who’s laughing then.

If you have any questions, feel free to ask.

Categories : Family, Treehouse
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Thursday, July 15, 2010

The end of Emy’s odyssey

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For the past few days I’ve been reading Homer’s “The Odyssey.” Today, as I was finishing the story, I got word that a dear lady in our church, Emy, had gone to be with the Lord.

Emy had been battling cancer for a long time. Though doctors had told her there was nothing else they could do for her, Emy maintained her joyful, upbeat attitude. Our church prayed for Emy and her husband Jim regularly, and we lifted them to the Lord in our family devotion time as well.

But for Emy, her constant prayer requests – even as she navigated the final weeks of her life – were often requests for others, and not for herself. She’d ask the church to pray for her doctors and surgeons, not that they would know how to treat her, but that they would be open and receptive to the gospel through her witness. She asked the same for others to whom she was witnessing. She led regular Bible studies at a local shelter for abused women longer than anyone would have dared to imagine, given her physical condition.

I didn’t know Emy well, but from what I observed about her, I came to the conclusion long ago that she was a true model of godliness and holiness. Our church will miss her and feel her departure deeply.

As I wrapped up “The Odyssey,” I thought about how the story is such a poignant example of life for the Christian. Odysseus spent 20 years away from home, desperately longing to return to his beloved Ithaca. Throughout his wanderings, he encountered adventure after adventure, from the massive Cyclops to the luring sirens, from the dreadful Scylla and Charybdis to the enticing goddess Calypso. But no matter where his travels took him, and no matter what fantastic places he visited, he always desired Ithaca more than anything else.

Similarly, our lives, no matter how different they may be, are nonetheless full of obstacles and adventures. Some may have greater challenges and difficulties than others, as Emy did over the past several years. Her life was not an easy one. But like Odysseus, Emy never lost sight of her final destination. Today, as her life on this earth ended, she finally reached the shores of her heavenly Ithaca — a home for which she has been longing — where she will forever be with the Lord, who has been her heart’s greatest desire.

May her spirit, her faith and her love for God and the church spur us who remain to follow her example.

“Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of his saints.” – Psalm 116:15

Categories : Church
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Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Adam Wainwright’s testimony

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I’ve known for some time that St. Louis Cardinals pitcher Adam Wainwright is a Christian. Back in March, I finally had a chance to interview him.

Wainwright grew up in a single-parent home with a mother who made sure he was in church every week. But he hated going to church and wanted nothing to do with Christianity.

Fast forward a few years, after Wainwright was drafted by the Braves, and he was roommates with Blaine Boyer (who I have written about previously). Boyer began witnessing to Wainwright, and eventually got him to attend a Pro Athletes Outreach conference. It was at that conference where the Lord opened Wainwright’s eyes to the truth of the gospel, and he believed.

I talked to more than one person who told me that Wainwright has a pastor’s heart for his teammates — that while he plays baseball for a living and works hard at his job, his true desire is to see his teammates come to know Jesus Christ. If you’d like to read some more of what Wainwright is about, here are a few things he’s written on a blog that he does with some other baseball players:

Fathers Day

Get in the Game

Godly humility

For God So Loved the World …

Confidence … King David Style

It was encouraging for me to hear Adam’s story of how God brought him to faith, because it was another reminder of how the Lord will sovereignly orchestrate the circumstances in our lives to bring about his desired purposes. I hope that Adam’s story will be a blessing to you as well.

Categories : Baseball
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Friday, July 9, 2010


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We were sitting in the living room visiting with some friends one night when our 2-year-old son Daniel emerged from our bedroom.

“Uh-oh,” he said. “Uh-oh.”

“Uh-oh” is Daniel-speak for “Something is wrong,” and the phrase covers a wide range of possible mishaps. It could be something as simple as “I dropped the hairbrush into the sink and now I can’t reach it” or as serious as “I just severed my leg with a butter knife.”

You just never know.

Justifiably alarmed, my wife followed as Daniel dutifully led her back to our bathroom, where she noticed that Daniel had removed all the toilet paper from a new roll and shoved it into the trash can.

Now, the way I understand “uh-oh” is that it connotes an accident – something that wasn’t supposed to happen. Uh-oh, I dropped the remote control. Uh-oh, I spilled my water. Uh-oh, I dialed the wrong number.

Deliberately unrolling all the toilet paper and stuffing it in the trash doesn’t qualify as an “uh-oh” to me. But apparently it does to Daniel. To him, it didn’t matter how the toilet paper got unrolled and made its way into the trash can – Daniel simply knew the situation wasn’t quite right, and it wasn’t something he could remedy, so he informed us with an “uh-oh.”

Two years of fatherhood have taught me that “uh-ohs” are much more common in my life than they used to be – and the older Daniel gets, and the stronger and more daring he gets – I’m sure the “uh-ohs” will continue to multiply. But though sometimes inconvenient, an “uh-oh” always keeps us on our toes, and it makes me thankful for a precious son who definitely makes my life more interesting and fulfilling than it ever has been.

Categories : Family
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Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Another chapter gone

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Today as I left for work, I said goodbye to my family, to our baby jumper swing and to another chapter of my life.

My wife got into the attic last night and retrieved a few of our remaining baby items. She was sending them with my parents, who were going to visit my brother and his wife, who are adopting a child. One of the things she sent was this jumpster swing suspended from a spring that hangs over a door frame. It has been a favorite of all three of our kids.

Long before they could stand up, we’d put them in the swing and they’d jump around like crazy, often laughing and squealing in the process. Sarah and I got many laughs from watching them bounce up and down. For Emmalee and Noah, we had a wider doorway where they could swing around in a huge circle. Seeing that swing always brought back happy memories of days gone by.

But those days are now a thing of the past. And bidding adieu to the swing strikes me again with the parenting paradox — that while I’m thrilled to see my children growing to maturity, and while I look forward to what the years ahead hold, the path along the way is littered with times when I realize that certain stages are past and gone forever.

I’ll miss the jumpster, and hope my niece or nephew will love it as much as my kids did.

Categories : Family
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